The Westerville club hockey team is seeking a return trip to the Buckeye Cup state tournament in early March.

The Warcats got out to a slow start in that pursuit, but have shown improvement in recent games. They were 4-10-1 after defeating Wooster 4-3 in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 26 at Chiller North.

"We've gotten off to a slow start, but that was to be expected (after) losing a lot of seniors and scoring up front last year," third-year coach Brian Thompson said. "We have a lot of holes to fill and hopefully we're starting to get comfortable into new roles."

Before losing to Cincinnati St. Xavier 6-3 in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 25, the Warcats had won three consecutive games, including 3-1 over the Northwest Eagles in the opening round of the tournament Nov. 24.

After beginning its Ohio Scholastic Hockey League schedule with five losses, Westerville has won two consecutive league games and is 2-5 entering its contest against Northeast on Friday, Dec. 1.

The Warcats defeated Athens 4-1 on Nov. 18 and PHA 2-0 on Nov. 19.

Last season, Westerville went 13-10-1 (27 points) in the league to finish third behind Dayton (45, 21-0-3) and Newark (34, 14-4-6).

The league previously was called the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League.

The Warcats lost a key player from last season as junior Grant Dickinson has joined the Wooster Oilers, a tier III junior team that plays in the North American 3 Hockey League.

Dickinson had a team-high 42 goals and 23 assists last season. He previously attended Westerville North, but has since moved to the Wooster area, according to Thompson.

"I'm very happy for him," Thompson said. "He definitely wants to keep getting better and this was a huge opportunity for him. I'm thrilled that we've been able to move another kid on. As much as I would like to have Grant on my team -- he's a great player -- any time you can help playing any sort of role in developing a kid and moving him on, that's huge for us."

The Warcats lost eight players to graduation, including Victor Runyon, who had 30 goals and 21 assists last season.

A key returnee is senior forward Evan Leeth, who attends North.

"We started off a little rough, but I like how everyone has responded and it looks like we're on the right track now," Leeth said.

Seniors Ian Bushong (def-enseman, Central) and Travis Furman (defenseman, North) are captains, and Leeth and senior Jack Larimer (defenseman, North) are assistant captains.

Other key players on offense are senior forwards Ryan Butler (South) and A.J. Moarefdoust (Central), junior forwards Cameron Myers (Central) and Hunter Schlatterbeck (Central) and sophomore forward Nicholas Frissora (Central).

Junior goaltender Sean Coonfare, who attends Oakstone Academy, is another key returnee.

"I think Sean is the best goalie in the league and I don't really think it's close," Thompson said. "He gives us a chance every night."

Other players are seniors Justin Kahle (defenseman, Columbus Academy), Cam-eron Morris (forward, Central) and Seth Sooley (forward, Central), juniors Mason Dietrich (forward, South), Benjamin Mannino (forward, North) and Tyler Mowery (defenseman, Central) and sophomores Jacob DeBella (goalie, South), Nicholas Fagan (forward, South) and Gabe Muccio (defenseman, Central).

Last season, the Warcats went 1-2 in the state tournament to finish 31-19-2 overall.

"We definitely want to get back to state," Leeth said. "It was a good feeling being there and I feel like we got bounced a little early (last season) and we want to get back there and redeem ourselves, so that is a goal for me."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedule

Oct. 6-8 -- Firestorm Tournament at Carmel Ice Skadium in Indianapolis

*Oct. 28 -- PHA at Chiller Easton

*Oct. 29 -- Hilliard at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Nov. 4 -- Northeast at Chiller Easton

*Nov. 10 -- Hilliard at Chiller Dublin

*Nov. 12 -- Dayton at Chiller Springfield

*Nov. 18 -- Athens at Chiller Easton

*Nov. 19 -- PHA at Taft Coliseum

Nov. 24-26 -- Chiller Thanksgiving Classic

*Dec. 1 -- Northeast at Chiller North

*Dec. 7 -- Newark at Lou & Gib Ice Reese Arena

*Dec. 10 -- PHA at Taft Coliseum

*Dec. 15 -- Athens at Bird Arena

*Dec. 17 -- Dayton at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 23 -- Athens at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 29 -- Dayton at Kettering Ice Arena

*Dec. 30 -- Hilliard at Chiller Easton

*Jan. 4 -- Newark at Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena

Jan. 6 -- Miami Youth Hockey Junior RedHawks Tournament at Goggin Ice Center

*Jan. 7 -- Northeast at Taft Coliseum

*Jan. 20 -- Hilliard at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 21 -- PHA at Taft Coliseum

Jan. 26 -- Newark at Chiller Easton

*Feb. 2 -- Dayton at Chiller Easton

*Feb. 4 -- Athens at Bird Arena

*Feb. 10 -- Newark at Chiller North

*Feb. 11 -- Northeast at Taft Coliseum

*League contest